In her early 20s, Hillary Clinton spent time at the Yale New Haven Hospital researching child abuse. She saw children who had been beaten, burned, and neglected. The experience turned her into a lifelong champion for kids in need. I know from my own life how important that work is.
My decision to become a child advocate social worker was influenced by my own social worker. She was so committed to my future that she not only advocated for me — she adopted me. Today, I proudly call her Mom. Every kid deserves an advocate who truly cares for them, and they have one in Hillary Clinton. Hillary knows that when you fight for our kids, you're fighting for our future. That's why I'm with Her.
In 1972, Hillary traveled to Alabama on a mission. She was there to help shed light on segregated academies — private schools that cropped up across the state after the Supreme Court ordered public schools to integrate. When these schools applied for federal tax exemptions, they claimed they weren't trying to promote segregation, but Hillary helped prove they were. Hillary visited one of these academies posing as a mother looking to enroll her child. And, sure enough, the administrators assured her they didn't accept black children. Hillary shared her findings with the Children's Defense Fund.
As the founder of a Philadelphia nonprofit focused on education and community, I wake up every morning thinking about how to give more African American young people the chance to live the future they deserve. I know Hillary Clinton wakes up thinking about the same thing. That's why I'm with Her.
After Hillary graduated from law school, she could've gotten a job anywhere. But she chose to work full time for the Children's Defense Fund. She went door to door in Massachusetts, gathering stories from disabled children who desperately wanted to go to school but were prevented from enrolling by discrimination.
Her research contributed to the passage of historic legislation that required states to provide quality education for disabled students. As a disabled person, I became a lawyer to advocate that disability is not a problem to be cured, but part of our identity and diversity. And that's why, today — on the 26th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act — I'm with Her.
Until the 1970s, young people who got in trouble in South Carolina were often housed in the same prison cells as adults. It was a dangerous policy that put kids at serious risk for abuse. The Children's Defense Fund dispatched Hillary to these prisons to investigate. As a result of work she contributed to, after three years of litigation, the state ended this practice.
From the moment a child touches the system, it's important society lifts them up instead of letting them fall behind. That's why I became a juvenile justice lawyer. You don't often make headlines fighting for kids — but her whole career, Hillary has been quietly leading that fight anyway. That's why I'm with Her.
As the first lady of Arkansas, Hillary Clinton chaired the state's Educational Standards Commission. She put the schools she visited to what she called the Chelsea Test. If it wasn't good enough for her daughter, it wasn't good enough for any child.
She played a major role in shaping the state's education policy and improving standards at schools like the one I went to. When she started, Arkansas' schools were ranked second worst in the nation. By the time she was done, they were among the most improved.
Now, as a teacher in those same public schools, I know my students continue to benefit from the work Hillary started all those years ago. That's why I'm with Her.
Hillary began working on adoption and foster care issues as a law student — and never stopped. As First Lady, she advocated for landmark legislation to make it easier for families to adopt kids in need — especially older kids who worried they'd never find a permanent home.
My 17-year-old son Heath was once one of those kids. We adopted Heath four years ago — but it feels like he's been part of the family forever. My three other kids swear Heath was on family vacations we took years before he joined the family.
I'm not a Democrat. But Hillary cares about kids like Heath, and about making families like mine complete. That's why I'm with Her.
Long before she ever held elected office, Hillary Clinton fought for kids every way she could. So you know she continued that fight once she got to the Senate.
I spent my childhood in the New York foster care system, moving from home to home with a trash bag as my suitcase. But if you're a kid in the system who never finds a permanent home, when you turn 18, you're on your own. After my high school graduation, my social worker shook my hand and wished me luck. That was it.
But Hillary had this crazy notion: Every kid deserves to live up to their God-given potential. So she reserved an internship spot in her Senate office just for former foster youth. In 2003, I got that spot. I remember our first meeting vividly. She looked me in the eye and said "Jelani, I'm proud of you." I felt seen and heard — for the first time in my life.
Throughout the years, Hillary has remained a source of encouragement. She has made me more mindful of my responsibility and purpose. Hillary taught me that there is a high cost for low expectations — and that you receive a blessing to become a blessing.
She inspired me to become a lawyer and an advocate for children in my community. Love dignifies us; it elevates us to higher plateaus. Hillary's love did that for me. It lifted me to a place I never had the courage to imagine.
That's why I'm with Her.
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SOURCE 2016 Democratic National Convention Committee